Five things Tennessee needs to do to beat Missouri

Missouri might be at the bottom of the SEC East, but Tennessee will still need to capitalize on its strengths to take care of the Tigers on Senior Day.

Photo by Sumner Gilliam

Tennessee running back #4 John Kelly prepares for contact during Tennessee's game against Kentucky on Nov. 12, 2016.

Don’t let Dobbs cool down

Regaining his mojo, Josh Dobbs has completed 23-of-30 passes for 406 yards and six touchdowns with just one interception over the last two games. And against Kentucky, the quarterback ran for 147 yards and two scores. For the first time since the Texas A&M game, offensive coordinator Mike DeBord leaned heavily on designed runs for Dobbs, calling 12 of them against the Wildcats. The Volunteers need to trust the dynamic signal caller to stay hot against the Tigers this weekend.

Keep pounding the ball

So far, Tennessee hasn’t missed departed running back Jalen Hurd’s production. That’s because sophomore John Kelly has more than made up for it. Kelly has been super efficient, averaging 7.3 yards per carry. Last week, the Vols’ rushing attack combined for 376 yards. Alvin Kamara had an electrifying return, in which he had 128 yards and two touchdowns on 10 carries. Dobbs topped the box score with 147 yards, and Kelly put in his two cents with 94. If Tennessee can get the same production from this three-headed ground attack as it did against the Wildcats, the offense should be in great shape this week.

Tighten up the run defense

Kentucky was able to run at will with 443 rushing yards and four touchdowns in its loss to Tennessee. Entering Saturday, teams were 30-0 when rushing for 400 yards in a game this season. Yes, injuries are still haunting Tennessee, which is why new starters linebacker Elliott Berry and defensive tackle Kyle Phillips have to stay more disciplined against the run.  The Vols cannot let the Tigers run all over them on Saturday if they want to win.

Start strong

Unfortunately, starting slow has been a common theme for Tennessee this year. Last week against Kentucky was no different. After the Vols finished their first drive with a three-and-out, they allowed quarterback Stephen Johnson to keep the ball on a zone read and run 75 yards in a shocking and embarrassing start for the Tennessee defense. Stanley “Boom” Williams topped off the two-play touchdown drive, taking it the rest of the way in. The Vols cannot allow Missouri to gain confidence early. This game needs to be over by the end of the first half.

Put the pressure on Drew Lock

Drew Lock — a four-star talent who elected to stay home and play for the Tigers — was one of the biggest recruits in Missouri football history. Lock still has some accuracy struggles, completing just 54.8 percent of his passes, but he has averaged at least 220 yards and thrown for a total of seven touchdowns and just two picks in the last four games. Tennessee needs cornerback Cam Sutton to shut down Lock’s biggest target, J’Mon Moore, who is second in the SEC in receiving yards (743) behind Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram. Also, the Vols need NFL prospect Derrick Barnett and company to bring the heat against the Tigers’ sophomore quarterback.

Edited by Dalton King 

Featured image by Sumner Gilliam

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